Bilingual Toddler Update at 31 months

She's growing up so quickly; Emma is now two years and seven months old - and heading fast towards eight months - so I really think it's time for an update on her speech and language development as a bilingual toddler.  (Is she still a toddler? At what age does toddlerhood end?)

Bilingual Toddler Update at 31 months

Having been born and brought up so far in Mexico means that her majority language is Spanish, which is spoken by most of the people around her.

Since before she was born, I have been speaking to her almost exclusively in English.  Despite some people telling me I was exaggerating in being so rigorous in not using Spanish - we are in Mexico, after all - I knew I was the only source of the minority language and that I should use this to its maximum potential for the benefit of my daughter.

Looking back on our bilingual journey so far, I feel vindicated!

We have a two and a half year old who understands both Spanish and English equally well (as far as I can tell) and expresses herself in both languages, mixing and matching according to her needs and who she's speaking to.

At the moment she mixes the two languages - well, why should she separate them?  She just uses all the tools at her disposal to get her message across.  We have noticed, though, that she tends to use much more English with me and more Spanish with her Spanish-speaking daddy and grandmother.  Sometimes, she'll say a word in one language, then repeat it in the other language, just to make sure we understand!

It's still hard to decipher a lot of what she says; often, she's babbling away and we have no idea of what she's talking about, save for the odd word.

However, other things she says so clearly.  If I ask her a question she's not sure of the answer to she thinks for a second, then, enunciating the "t" very clearly, says, "I don't know."

Then there's a middle ground of garbled words or phrases that we manage to work out from the context, or because Emma uses them a lot.

Here are some of her frequently-used phrases:
Muddy puddles/ sump in muddy puddles - I wonder where she got that one from?!
Oots! - oops, of course.  Then she'll start saying "Oops, sorry mummy!" over and over again while she's running around.  I have no idea what she's apologising for!
Oh dear!
I hep oo - "I'll help you", often when I'm making the bed or some other activity; she likes to help!
Qué es eso? / What dis? - A frequent question in English or Spanish.  Sometimes we turn it into a game, pointing at different things and asking what they are and I make her laugh by giving the wrong answers.
Are you...? - Asking questions, like " Are you seepy, mummy?" and "Are you mopping?"  Are you? can also be "Where are you?"  Now she uses it to begin all sorts of questions, instead of do you and can you.  For example, in this conversation: "Are you open peez, mummy?"  I open the lid of the pot she holds out to me and she responds, "Nadoo, mummy." (Nadoo is Thank you!)
Let's go! / let's play! / let's go upstairs/ outside, etc.
Vete de ati!  - Something like "get out of here!" So I told her that wasn't very nice and she should say "Excuse me, please".  So now she says "Doozy peez"!  Or she says in Spanish, "Con piso!" (Con permiso).
I got a nidea! - Then you ask her what her idea is and she whispers it in a way that's impossible to understand!

I get confused sometimes when she says I want as it sounds like I not, and think that she means she doesn't want something when she does.  I must remember it's usually I want.

Her negatives are usually a no at the end of the phrase, for example, I say "We're going to have dinner now."  And Emma might respond, "Have dinner, no."  With a long, emphatic, English-sounding no.

We've had several conversations similar to this one:
The light was off and Emma said, "I see dark."  "Really?" I said, and she replied "si, portay I eat my tarrots!" (This tells you a lot about how I try to convince her to eat vegetables!) Portay is "porque", Spanish for "because".

She has a unique way of counting to ten - well, many different variations, but this is the current favourite:  Unu (1), dos (2), tes (3), sete (7), ocho (8), neve (9), eight, nine, ten! 

She's great at saying please and thank you - peez and nadoo - or in Spanish porfoy (por favor) and yasias (gracias)!

However, my very favourite phrase of hers, which she's only started using quite recently in the past week or so, is I love mummy, accompanied by a hug.  It melts my heart!

It's fun listening to her and noticing how her speech is developing every day and I love our little conversations, even when I'm not quite sure what we're talking about.  So I do my best to capture and remember all these little details of moments that pass by before we even know it.

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Cuddle Fairy

Seychelles Mama

The Pramshed


  1. This is so lovely, I wish we had a bilingual household, I think it really gives kids a huge advantage, good for you, keep it up! xx #fortheloveofblog

  2. We're always so impressed with how her language is developing and how she seems to know both Spanish and English equally well. So sweet that she now says she loves you! xxx

  3. How cute! It's fascinating to see how they deal with the different languages, isn't it. My son has always chosen whatever word is easiest to say, but he will still speak mostly English at home and mostly Swedish at preschool. It is cute how they mix it up sometimes though!

  4. Ohhh I've loved reading this as I have similar 'conversations' with my 25 month old. Half the time I haven't got a clue what she's saying and if it's French, English or just toddler speak.
    I should also start writing down some of the things she comes out with as I'm sure to forget one day.

    At the moment she tries to say her brother's name Raphaël which sounds like 'vaiselle' (washing up), and a totally made up word 'omeny' which she says to her toys when she brings them with her. It must be a mix of 'come with me' and 'viens avec moi' and 'Je l'emmene'. Who knows what goes on in their heads. Counting also makes me laugh. She definitely mixes the two languages, although randomly can count down from 10 in a English when we sing 'zoom zoom zoom, we're going to be moon'. Their little brains are amazing aren't they?!